Ohio voters get to decide today whether the state is to become the next fully legal marijuana market in the nation. However, there is also a rival issue on the ballot that could prevent legalization from happening even if the majority comes out in support for legal weed.
The measure seeking to bring legal marijuana to the Buckeye state is ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow adults 21 or older to purchase weed in a manner similar to beer at a number of retail dispensaries across the state. It would also legalize the herb for medicinal purposes, allowing doctors to offer recommendations to patients suffering from a wealth of health conditions.
If voters back this initiative, Ohio would join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in becoming the fifth state to ending prohibitionary times.
Although most statewide efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have had a great deal of success over the past few years, Issue 3 has been dragged through the dirt, mostly by marijuana advocates, over the oddly-shaped structure of the industry that comes attached to legalization.
In exchange for legal weed, ResponsibleOhio, which is made up of a group of wealthy investors and local entrepreneurs, gets exclusive rights to the commercial production and distribution of marijuana. Although the guts of Issue 3 eliminates the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession, not to mention permits residents to grow a significant amount of weed at home for personal use, it also eliminates the possibility of anyone other than ResponsibleOhio from getting into the business of growing and selling weed.
In short, Issue 3 creates a legal environment for the average pot consumer similar to what is currently underway in Colorado, but it establishes a monopoly on the market in the process.
Because of this, the Ohio General Assembly got together over the summer and put a competing initiative on the ballot – Issue 2. This measure asks for voters to decide whether or not the state should allow the existence of monopolies. Therefore, regardless if ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3 wins the election, Issue 2, otherwise known as the anti-monopoly amendment would only need the approval of the voting majority to stop legalization dead in its tracks.
“Should both proposed measures be approved, the anti-monopoly amendment put forth by the legislature would go into effect first and its provision banning a monopoly from inclusion in the constitution would serve as an effective roadblock to ResponsibleOhio’s amendment taking effect,” Husted said in a statement.
The problem is that all of the noise surrounding both issues has created a shitstorm of confusion that has convinced even the most loyal marijuana supporters; those who would likely remain unaffected by the ResponsibleOhio monopoly scheme, to stand in opposition with the measure.
“It’s disgusting to me,” Sri Kavuru, executive director of Ohioans to End Prohibition, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The idea that any group or corporation has the exclusive right to grow marijuana and sell it. It’s not plutonium. It’s an agricultural commodity that should be regulated like one.”
The impact of the media racket has become a virus that has revealed itself in some of the latest surveys. Most of the polls show that Ohioans are split on whether they should legalize weed or support the anti-monopoly proposal, making the outcome of today’s election completely unpredictable.
However, one thing is certain, if Ohio manages to emerge from today’s election having legalized marijuana, every state with an initiative on the ballot in 2016 will have no excuse for failure.